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Top Tips for Budget Travel in Scotland

Home to dramatic scenery, a heap of crumbling castles and the renowned Edinburgh Festival, Scotland has something to offer every traveller. From the tips of the mountains to its lively cultural cities, it’s a fascinating place to explore.

Making your way among the sights can add up to a costly experience, so here’s a collection of money-saving tips to help you make the most of a Scottish vacation for less. Here's how to backpack Scotland — on a budget.

Transport on the Cheap

Getting up to Scotland from London can now be quick and affordable, thanks to low-cost airlines which fly into Edinburgh and Glasgow on a regular basis. What’s more, if you book well in advance, flights are generally very cheap.

Even though the UK’s railways can be expensive, advance tickets can offer great savings on train travel. The cheapest way to travel to Scotland, however, is by bus, and prices start as low as £10. One word of warning – this journey is rather long!

Once in Scotland, an extensive bus and train network allows travellers to reach the outer edges of the countryside and, like the larger national services, discounts are also available in advance.

Budget Accommodation

Instead of splashing out on hotels, budget travellers can opt to stay in affordable dorm beds or private rooms scattered across the country at hostels in Scotland, from Glasgow to Aberdeen and Loch Ness to the Isle of Skye.

Whether you’re looking for quality Edinburgh hostels in the heart of the city center or to spend a night at the reputedly haunted hostel at Carbisdale Castle, hostels offer cheap accommodation to suit every budget traveller.

Cheap Eats

Dining out can add up to a big expense on your travels but you can still find a bargain in most local Scottish pubs where hearty meals, such as soup, stew and fish and chips, can be enjoyed for a reasonable price. Pints can also fit nicely into the budget, as they tend to be cheaper than wine and spirits.

For further savings, travellers can also take advantage of the kitchens often available at hostels in Scotland and self-cater during their stay – it’s actually a great affordable way to sample local ingredients and combinations.

Combined Tickets

travellers wishing to try and fit in as many sights as possible will find that passes which offer entry to a number of different attractions can be a cheaper alternative to buying expensive individual tickets. Historic Scotland has an excellent offer for the three major castles in the Lothian area (Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart) which will save the budget-wise traveller a third of the price.

Three Thrifty Things to Do

  1. Enjoy some history for the price of a pint. Avoid pricey museums and indulge in a drink with your history lesson at Edinburgh’s Ensign Ewart pub (521 Lawnmarket, The Royal Mile). One of the oldest establishments in the city, it dates back to the 17th century and was named for Ensign Charles Ewart - reputedly the man responsible for capturing the French standard at the Battle of Waterloo. Famous patrons have included authors Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

  2. Monster spotting at Loch Ness. Take a tour around the notorious loch to admire its stunning scenery and watch out for the creature that is said to inhabit its depths. Well-known in popular culture (despite no scientific evidence ever having been recovered), and the subject of numerous reported sightings and hoaxes, the tale has spawned a series of movies and books speculating on its existence.

  3. Soak up the magic of the stones in the Outer Hebrides. Excavations at the late Neolithic stone circle at Calanais have estimated that it was set up around 2600 BC, making it older than the more famous sight at Stonehenge. The stones have a unique arrangement, with lines radiating in four directions from the ring, and their significance and construction remains a mystery. Situated on a prominent ridge, the circle is visible for miles around and its magic is free to explore.